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Claim Haiti Relief Donations on Your 2009 Tax Return

This week, President Obama signed into law a bill that lets taxpayers claim donations made to earthquake relief in Haiti on their 2009 tax returns. If you make a cash contribution between January 11th, 2010 and March 1st, 2010 towards relief aid for earthquake victims in Haiti, you can claim it on your 2009 tax return. Specifically, you are permitted to treat the donation as having been made on December 31st, 2009 for tax purposes.

All other normal donation rules apply such as the burden of proof/written documentation (though, as I’ll explain below, they’ve specifically called out a methodology for text message donations) and how to deduction charitable donations you must itemize your deductions. Unfortunately, non-cash contributions are not eligible for this speedy deduction.

Finally, you are not required to claim the deduction on your 2009 return. Based on your tax situation, it may be better for you to claim the deduction in 2010 rather than in 2009. For example, if will not be itemizing deductions in 2009, you will want to wait until 2010. You cannot claim the deduction for both years.

Text Message Donations

In addition to making the charitable contribution effective December 31st, the bill added clarification on what constituted “written documentation” for text message donations. If you can produce a telephone bill showing the name of the donee organization, the date, and the amount of the contribution, then you will have met the recordkeeping requirements of the Internal Revenue Code to claim the donation. The donee organization must be eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions and you can use this IRS tool to lookup eligible organizations [3].

H.R. 4462

H.R.4462 – To accelerate the income tax benefits for charitable cash contributions for the relief of victims of the earthquake in Haiti [4] was the House bill, passed on 1/20 by the House of Representatives and passed by the Senate on 1/21. It is quite possibly one of the shortest bills I’ve ever seen (though I haven’t read through many) – bill text [5].

For more information, please read the IRS bulletin: Haiti Relief Donations Qualify for Immediate Tax Relief [6].